(CNSNews.com) – Director of National Intelligence James Clapper admitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the Russians did not alter vote counts in the U.S. election.
"They did not change any vote tallies or anything of that sort," Clapper said under questioning from Chairman John McCain (R.-Ariz.)
Clapper further implicitly conceded that whatever the Russians might have done in making Democratic National Committee emails available to the public, the outcome of the U.S. presidential election nonetheless reflected "the choices" of American voters.
"We had no way of gauging the impact that—certainly the intelligence community cannot gauge the impact--it [Russian cyber activities] had on the choices the electorate made," Clapper told McCain.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) asked Clapper, “the intelligence community says, ‘It would be extremely difficult for someone – including a nation-state actor to alter actual ballot counts or election results by cyberattack or intrusion,’ and you say to that earlier today as well that we have no evidence that vote tallies were altered or manipulated in anyway?”
“That’s correct,” Clapper said.
When asked to give a preview to the committee of what will be submitted in a classified report to Congress later on the motive of Russia’s cyberattack, Clapper said there was “more than one motive,” but he refused to specify what the motive would be. Clapper acknowledged, however, that ascertaining motives of foreign leaders is a hard task.
“In your 50 years of intelligence, is ascertaining the motives, plans and intentions of foreign leaders among the hardest tasks that we ask our intelligence services to perform?” Cotton asked.
“It always has been,” Clapper responded.
“There’s a widespread assumption – this has been expressed by Secretary Clinton herself since the election - that Vladimir Putin favored Donald Trump in this election,” Cotton said.
He noted that during the election, President-elect Donald Trump proposed increasing the defense budget “to accelerate nuclear modernization, to accelerate ballistic missile defenses, and to expand and to accelerate boosting missile defenses, and to expand and accelerate oil and gas production, which would obviously harm Russia’s economy.”
“Hillary Clinton opposed or at least was not as enthusiastic about all those measures. Would each of those put the United States in a stronger strategic position against Russia?” Cotton asked.
“Certainly anything we do to enhance our military capabilities—absolutely,” Clapper said.
“There’s some contrary evidence despite what the media speculates that perhaps Donald Trump is not the best candidate for Russia,” Cotton said.